New York Times On Pakistan’s Conspiracy Theorists

It is not every day that we at PTH agree with the New York Times on issues pertaining to Pakistan but we do so whoelheartedly here. Pakistan is full of conspiracy theorists of all shapes, sizes and forms. And these conspiracy theorists are found everywhere. Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khawaja Sharif not long ago allegedly declared that Taliban were secretly Hindu. The article below doesn’t mention Hamid Mir but the recent Khalid Khawaja incident shows how conspiracy theories can be very hazardous. Many of these conspiracy theorists find Pakteahouse (denounced as part of the 2 percent liberal mafia and as “Rich Anglophone Pakistani Elite” aka RAPE by some) a particular target for we have stood against them consistently. One such conspiracy theory rag – the Daily Ummat – which ought to be investigated for links with terrorists- routinely abues PTH and its active members by name to cause them harm. We are glad the world is beginning to take note of these crooks. – YLH

U.S. Heads a Cast of Villains in Pakistan’s Conspiracy Talk

Rehan Khan/European Pressphoto Agency
Supporters of the Islamic political party Jamaat-e-Islami at a rally in Karachi, Pakistan, in February. Pakistani suspicion of the United States is fueled by political parties and media pundits.

Published: May 25, 2010
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CloseLinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Americans may think that the failed Times Square bomb was planted by a man named Faisal Shahzad. But the view in the Supreme Court Bar Association here in Pakistan’s capital is that the culprit was an American “think tank.”

Notes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other areas of conflict in the post-9/11 era.

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Jason Tanner for The New York Times
Until recently, Zaid Hamid was an outspoken commentator on Pakistani television.
No one seems to know its name, but everyone has an opinion about it. It is powerful and shadowy, and seems to control just about everything in the American government, including President Obama.

“They have planted this character Faisal Shahzad to implement their script,” said Hashmat Ali Habib, a lawyer and a member of the bar association.

Who are they?

“You must know, you are from America,” he said smiling. “My advice for the American nation is, get free of these think tanks.”

Conspiracy theory is a national sport in Pakistan, where the main players — the United States, India and Israel — change positions depending on the ebb and flow of history. Since 2001, the United States has taken center stage, looming so large in Pakistan’s collective imagination that it sometimes seems to be responsible for everything that goes wrong here.

“When the water stops running from the tap, people blame America,” said Shaista Sirajuddin, an English professor in Lahore.

The problem is more than a peculiar domestic phenomenon for Pakistan. It has grown into a narrative of national victimhood that is a nearly impenetrable barrier to any candid discussion of the problems here. In turn, it is one of the principal obstacles for the United States in its effort to build a stronger alliance with a country to which it gives more than a billion dollars a year in aid.

It does not help that no part of the Pakistani state — either the weak civilian government or the powerful military — is willing to risk publicly owning that relationship.

One result is that nearly all of American policy toward Pakistan is conducted in secret, a fact that serves only to further feed conspiracies. American military leaders slip quietly in and out of the capital; the Central Intelligence Agency uses networks of private spies; and the main tool of American policy here, the drone program, is not even publicly acknowledged to exist.

“The linchpin of U.S. relations is security, and it’s not talked about in public,” said Adnan Rehmat, a media analyst in Islamabad.

The empty public space fills instead with hard-line pundits and loud Islamic political parties, all projected into Pakistani living rooms by the rambunctious new electronic media, dozens of satellite television networks that weave a black-and-white, prime-time narrative in which the United States is the central villain.

“People want simple explanations, like evil America, Zionist-Hindu alliance,” said a Pakistani diplomat, who asked not to be named because of the delicate nature of the topic. “It’s gone really deep into the national psyche now.”

One of those pundits is Zaid Hamid, a fast-talking, right-wing television personality who rose to fame on one of Pakistan’s 90 new private television channels.

He uses Google searches to support his theory that India, Israel and the United States — through their intelligence agencies and the company formerly known as Blackwater — are conspiring to destroy Pakistan.

For Mr. Hamid, the case of Mr. Shahzad is one piece of a larger puzzle being assembled to pressure Pakistan. Why, otherwise, the strange inconsistencies, like the bomb’s not exploding? “If you connect the dots, you have a pretty exciting story,” he said.

But the media are only part of the problem. Only a third of Pakistan’s population has access to satellite channels, Mr. Rehmat said, and equally powerful are Islamic groups active at the grass roots of Pakistani society.

Though Pakistan was created as a haven for Muslims, it was secular at first, and did not harden into an Islamic state on paper until 1949. Intellectuals point to the moment as a kind of original sin, when Islam became embedded in the country’s democratic blueprint, handing immense power to Islamic hard-liners, who could claim — despite their small numbers — to be the true guardians of the state.

Together with military and political leaders, these groups wield Islamic slogans for personal gain, further shutting down discussion.

“We’re in this mess because political forces evoke Islam to further their own interests,” said Aasim Sajjad, an assistant professor of political economy at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.

Lawyers in Pakistan have a strong streak of political Islam. Mr. Habib, who has had militants as clients, argues that Al Qaeda is an American invention. Their pronouncements are infused with anti-Semitism, standard for Islamic groups in the region.

“The lobbies are the Jews, maybe some Indians, working in the inner core of the American administration,” said Muhammad Ikram Chaudhry, vice president of the bar association.

Liberals on Pakistan’s beleaguered left see the xenophobic patriotism and conspiracy theories as a defense mechanism that deflects all responsibility for society’s problems and protects against a reality that is too painful to face.

“It’s deny, deny, deny,” said Nadeem F. Paracha, a columnist for Dawn, an English-language daily. “It’s become second nature, like an instinct.”

Mr. Paracha argues that the denial is dangerous because it hobbles any form of public conversation — for example, about Mr. Shahzad’s upper-class background — leaving society unequipped to find remedies for its problems. “We’ve started to believe our own lies,” he said.

For those on the left, that view obscures an increasingly disappointing history. For 62 years, Pakistan has lurched from one self-serving government to the next, with little thought given to education or the economy, said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a physics professor at Quaid-i-Azam University. Now Pakistan is dependent on the West to pay its bills, a vulnerable position that breeds resentment.

“We acknowledge to ourselves privately that Pakistan is a client state of the U.S.,” Mr. Hoodbhoy said. “But on the other hand, the U.S. is acting against Muslim interests globally. A sort of self-loathing came about.”

There are very real reasons for Pakistanis to be skeptical of the United States. It encouraged — and financed — jihadis waging a religious war against the Soviets in the 1980s, while supporting the military autocrat Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, who seeded Pakistan’s education system with Islamists.

But Mr. Hamid is more interested in the larger plot, like the secret ownership of the Federal Reserve, which he found on the Internet. After three years of fame, his star seems to be falling. This month his show was canceled, and he has had to rely on Facebook and audio CDs to make his points. But it is not the end of the conspiracy.

“Someone else will be front row very soon,” said Manan Ahmed, a professor of Pakistani history. “It is the mood of the country at the moment.”

Salman Masood contributed reporting.

A version of this article appeared in print on May 26, 2010, on page A1 of the New York edition.



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12 responses to “New York Times On Pakistan’s Conspiracy Theorists

  1. enkhan

    YLH, why not start with US conspiracy theories? Fake-Moon landing, cropcircles, etc.. the only difference is ours are easier to notice and aren’t meant to beguile the whole world atleast, which, in all ways is a good thing..

  2. eKhan, what in the world has US conspiracies to do with the issue at hand? The fact to place the blame on someone else has become the fabric of Pakistani society.

    Blaming America-Israel-India is the cowards way of solving a problem that has infested the country and now we have hire an exterminator and use just destroy the vermin aka Taliban or other religious fanatic that have hijacked Islam to kill their fellow men and gain power.

    Unless the people of Pakistan wake up to the reality and save the motherland the end is near

  3. yasserlatifhamdani

    No there is no end … But we will continue to be the laughing stock of the world unless you start listening to the RAPE.

  4. Hollis

    To Mr. enkhan,
    Good sir, I write to inform you the moon-landings are no fakery. I was there, pausing between abducting an Arkansan housewife and executing a butterfly design in a wheatfield in Iowa. In addition, Zaid Hamid is one of our own. No, he doesn’t shut up when in his original form, either. It’s why we sent him over.

  5. Hira Mir

    It is time that we put aside all these conspiracy theories and start working to cure the cancer which we have detected within ourselves. Trying to pin this war on others will not lead us no where. We must take care of these militants to a large extent by potential rehabilitation and positive results.

  6. Rashid Saleem

    Making ‘Conspiracy theories’ might actually become a national sport soon. We as a nation try to label others as the ones who are after us and never admit our own mistakes. This notion needs to be removed and redefined if we are to move towards future with pride.

  7. Zainab Ali

    I accept the leadership is important, because it guides the people towards a certain path, either of progress or otherwise. But when I look at myself and the society I always notice that we have nothing to do with the prosperity of our country; we are not concerned with what happens to our institutions, we simply blame our leadership; taking responsibility for your actions is difficult, because it is very painful sometimes. We need to change ourselves as individuals and as a nation, before we start at anything else.

  8. Ammar Zafarullah

    YLH, these are not conspiracy theories for the proponents of Conspiracy theories speculate them with a margin of doubt. In Pakistan it is “Alternative Reality” for they adherently believe in them for it offer them remain in the perpetual state of denial.

  9. Alethia

    I am a Christian American who lives in New York.

    I can tell you that even in this city there is a very anti-muslim, anti-Pakistani atmosphere.

    Things that were hitherto not done are being done now:
    -There are ads in some city buses saying, “Want to leave Islam? Fatwa against you? Call: xxx-xxx-xxxx.”
    -Some friends of mine who are Pakistani-Americans (born here) are having to keep a low profile for fear of being attacked.

    I’m concerned about this kind of atmosphere where people of ANY religion, in this case Muslim, are being rapidly demonized. It is an atmosphere of fear.
    It’s taking on shades of pre-Nazi Germany where it became “fashionable” to draw cartoons of Jews depicting them as rats. That was the slippery slope leading to the rounding-up of the Jews everybody said “couldn’t happen” in an advanced country like Germany.

    Out of that kind of license to demonize the Jews, Germany brought the world the Kristallnact of 1938…

  10. Alethia

    I have a few friends who are of Pakistani origin and have visited their families in Pakistan.
    Pakistani people are very warm and hospitable and I have a great affection for them.

    I’ll be a little bold to say that there would not be so many conspiracy theories among Pakistanis if the country would stand up through its own bootstraps and not depend so much on foreign powers.

    I hear constantly from the country’s leaders of how the world community must help Pakistan.

    Pakistan is a country with a lot of natural resources, good technology, abundant agriculture, and most importantly, human resources. A democratic dispensation has taken hold even with the various flaws. It will soon be the 4th largest country in the world population wise.

    Why this overdependence on the USA, EU or even China?

    Pakistan has all the elements in place to be truly self-sufficient and independent.

    Depending upon oneself, from the personal to the country level, even if you have to suffer for a few years, is truly worth the effort…

  11. samar

    first and formost pakistan MUST change its outlook towards india at all costs. very negative outlook of india is the ROOT CAUSE of all the problems facing pakistan.

  12. Rohan David

    Dear Readers:

    Here is a small effort to bring religious, cultural and ethnic harmony in Pakistan. Your support counts a lot to make a difference to our country.